The Poetics of Space Across Latitudes

Sounds of Silence
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Sounds of Silence
Gordon Hempton says that the Earth is a solar-powered jukebox. Here, he carries across three zones — from the equator and the Amazon, where there's maximum sunlight and solar energy, to Central America, where it's beginning to wane, and then into the temperate latitudes, where we can hear the intermittent silence. Be sure to listen with a pair of headphones or earbuds. You’ll discover quieting sounds you might miss without them. Promise. Download the MP3 and share it with your friends!


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Amazon rain forest (photo by Oscar Federico Bodini/Flickr, cc by-nc-sa 2.0)

Silence is not the absence of something but the presence of everything. It is the presence of time, undisturbed. It can be felt within the chest. Silence nurtures our nature, our human nature, and lets us know who we are. Left with a more receptive mind and a more attuned ear, we become better listeners not only to nature but to each other. Silence can be carried like embers from a fire. Silence can be found, and silence can find you. Silence can be lost and also recovered. But silence cannot be imagined, although most people think so. To experience the soul-swelling wonder of silence, you must hear it.

Silence is a sound, many, many sounds. I've heard more than I can count. Silence is the moonlit song of the coyote signing the air, and the answer of its mate. It is the falling whisper of snow that will later melt with an astonishing reggae rhythm so crisp that you will want to dance to it. It is the sound of pollinating winged insects vibrating soft tunes as they defensively dart in and out of the pine boughs to temporarily escape the breeze, a mix of insect hum and pine sigh that will stick with you all day. Silence is the passing flock of chestnut-backed chickadees and red-breasted nuthatches, chirping and fluttering, reminding you of your own curiosity.

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From the book "One Square Inch of Silence: One Man's Quest to Preserve Quiet" by Gordon Hempton and John Grossman.

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is founder and vice president of The One Square Inch of Silence Foundation based in Joyce, Washington. He's the author of One Square Inch of Silence: One Man's Quest to Preserve Quiet.

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